Expat Interview With Sara Gdovin - US Expat in New Zealand

Published: 18 Oct at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,New Zealand
Sara Gdovin is a witty upstate NYer who after extensive soul searching found herself in Dunedin, NZ. While she isn't dedicating time to pursuing her PhD in identifying modifiable factors associated with weight gain prevention among mid-age New Zealand women, Sara enjoys training and competing in marathons and triathlons and was delighted to find that there is a whole different definition of tramping in NZ (that would be hiking for you Patriots). Visit Sara's blog, called New Yorker In New Zealand (see listing here), for an entertaining take on her adventures as an ex-patriot in NZ and stay for the beautiful scenery found in the photos she takes while exploring the countryside.

New Yorker in NZ

Here's the interview with Sara...



Where are you originally from?
Binghamton, New York

In which country and city are you living now?
Dunedin, New Zealand

How long have you lived here and how long are you planning to stay?
I've been here for 7 months and I'll be here a total of 3 years.

Why did you move and what do you do? Also, a summary of my journey...
I never imagined myself getting divorced and moving to a foreign country for three years to start a PhD program at the age of 29! But, I wouldn't give it up for the world. I am pursing a PhD in public health and will research the effect of an intervention on weight gain prevention among mid-age New Zealand women. My supervisor shares my interest in utilizing intuitive eating in an intervention, so I moved here so that we could work together on an intervention.

New Yorker in NZDid you bring family with you?
No family.

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
New Zealand is an AMAZING country to move to! The transition was pretty easy. I just had to adjust to the laid back approach to many things, I refer to it as "kiwi casual." =)

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
I live in postgraduate accommodations and so it was easy to make friends where I live. I've also joined the tramping club and have met great people on our camping/hiking adventures. I've found a good mix of Americans and non-Americans in my day-to-day routine.

What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
Dunedin is a charming little city, but provides opportunities for outdoor lovers such as myself. The Botanic Garden is a wonderful place to go for an easy stroll and there are plenty of places to go for someone who wants a more challenging hike - for example, the walk across the Mt. Flagstaff and Pineapple tracks offer a beautiful view of the harbor and peninsula. The peninsula has many places to visit, too. I enjoyed the views from the Albatross Colony and loved my first encounter with sea lions at Allan's Beach. There's also shopping along George St. and a night out on the town in the Octagon - something for everyone!

What do you enjoy most about living here?
The outdoor activities! I went tramping (hiking/camping) in a beautiful 10-person hut in Silver Peaks - less than 30 minutes outside of the city centre! Also, people are very friendly here. The smiling faces put my mind at ease when I first arrived.

New Yorker in NZHow does the cost of living compare to home?
I've found that shopping for anything: groceries, shampoo, clothing, etc is so much more expensive (even when considering the exchange rate). Going out to eat or for a drink also feels like more of a luxury, compared to my hometown, because it's more expensive (but, a tip isn't expected and the tax is already included in the price listed, which is nice). It isn't unusual to spend $8 for one pint of beer here. I think the cost of buying a house or renting is similar to my hometown.

What negatives, if any, are there to living here?
There is so much sticker shock here! The cost of petrol (gas) almost makes traveling prohibitive, so it has been extra important to make sure there are plenty of people to split the costs of traveling around the country by car.

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving here, what would it be?
Save more money than you think you'll need. I should have arrived with three times as much savings! Other than that, people should make time to travel. This country is too beautiful to not explore.

New Yorker in NZWhat has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
Budgeting money has been the hardest aspect. I wanted to see as much of the country as I could, so I joined the tramping club. I've seen amazing places (hello, Fiordland!), but I bought my own gear here. My sleeping bag cost $400 and my tramping boots cost about that much, too! I'll live in a flat with five other students starting in January and my own expenses will run about $800/month - this is more expensive than at home. Electricity is more costly, so there will be extra emphasis on keeping the heat pump turned off in winter and taking short showers.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
I'll be back in the U.S. in just over 2.5 years. I'll be difficult to adjust to the quicker pace of life.

What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
1. Save at least double the amount of money that you think you'll need.
2. Investigate your accommodations thoroughly. The flats in Dunedin are often "iffy"... I looked at five places before choosing the least worst option. It's important to find a flat/house that gets sun and has a heat pump!
3. Don't be put off by the distance. It's a 30 hour trip to get from New York to Dunedin, New Zealand and that can sound overwhelming. But, I've managed to stay in touch with family and friends via Skype and Facebook - I'm not homesick yet!
4. Invest in a great camera. This country is beautiful and it's so worth it to take lots of pictures!
5. Budget time and money for traveling. The people here are amazing, so plan on taking some new friends on a road trip to go tramping!

Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is a blend of my experiences as a graduate student in a research program and living in a new country. I discuss my research, my experiences as a research assistant, my latest travel adventures and more.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?
Email is the best way to get in touch with me - sara{dot}gdovin{at}gmail{dot}com

Sara writes her own expat blog called New Yorker in New Zealand http://saragdovin.blogspot.co.uk, which is very worthy of a visit! She can be found on Twitter @saragdovin. If you like Sara's writing style, why not leave her a nice comment over at her listing here at ExpatsBlog.com. If you liked her interview, why not leave a comment below too.
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Comments » There is 1 comment

Chris wrote 6 years ago:

Coming here soon to work in a Lab. Any suggestions on where to live? Mid twenties male and I enjoy going out, but dont mind a night in. Thanks!!

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